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Ahead of the Bell: Sanderson Farms

NEW YORK (AP) -- A KeyBanc Capital Markets analyst lowered Sanderson Farms' rating on Tuesday, citing the chicken producer's stock price.

Analyst Akshay Jagdale cut the rating on the Laurel, Miss., company to "Hold" from "Buy" and removed its price target. In a client note, the analyst said that the stock price is approaching the prior price target of $70. Shares of Sanderson Farms closed at $68.85 on Monday. It has traded in a 52-week range of $36.11 to $72.15.

Jagdale remains upbeat on the chicken industry, saying that demand is growing faster than supply. This should benefit countries like the U.S. and Brazil, where costs are low, giving them ample opportunity to supply other areas, he added.

Jagdale anticipates that chicken prices will remain high relative to historical levels because it is still viewed as relatively inexpensive by consumers when compared with beef or pork. With shoppers believing they are getting a better bargain on chicken, demand is rising.

The analyst increased Sanderson Farms' 2013 earnings estimate to $6.67 from $5.26 per share and its 2014 forecast to $8.06 from $7.64 per share on better-than-expected chicken margins.

Sanderson Farms does not comment on analyst reports.